42-foot bus providing on-demand treatment for drug and alcohol abuse to North St. Louis

Counseling and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse will soon be provided to three neighborhoods in north St. Louis via a 42-foot bus.

Doctors, nurses and therapists on the bus, which you run Black Alcohol/Drug Service Information CenterIt aims to provide immediate care to black communities in the area. The treatment bus will stop five times a week in the back spaces of CareSTL Health clinics in the Greater Ville, Riverview and Wells-Goodfellow neighborhoods.

People with withdrawal can receive treatment evaluations, counseling, and medication for drug and alcohol abuse while visiting an ambulatory treatment center.

Oval Miller, chief executive of the center, said many blacks in north St. Louis cannot afford high-quality substance abuse treatment.

“We can’t believe just because you’re black and poor, you don’t deserve the best treatment,” Miller said.

Miller understands how extraordinary treatment for substance abuse can change lives. He came to St. Louis from Los Angeles decades ago addicted to heroin. With the help of his family, Miller enrolled in a private treatment center in the area. The cost of treatment is approximately $30,000. He said the kind of care he receives should be available to people at all social and economic levels, not just the wealthy.

On the bus, counselors and doctors will examine individuals by looking at the frequency, severity, and history of drug use. They will also discuss societal or mental concerns to find the best treatment options for patients.

Providing on-demand care is important because the treatment window closes quickly for people who abuse alcohol or drugs, said Robin Smith, program director at the center. And asking for an appointment often means patients don’t come back for treatment, he said.

“We hope to fill that gap — if you want treatment, you get it now,” Smith said.

In April, the University of Missouri-St. Louis found it 405 blacks died from an opioid overdose in the area last year. During the same time frame, the number of egg overdoses in St. Louis decreased.

The researchers say this disparity is due to a lack of treatment facilities in the area’s black neighborhoods and a lack of resources that provide drugs, including Suboxone and methadone, used to treat withdrawal symptoms.

“I don’t think African Americans can afford to be indifferent all the time,” Miller said, “They have to be vigilant, we are in a constant war for our survival.”

The doctors and counselors on the bus will also teach church leaders and district counselors how to conduct substance abuse interventions in their communities.

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